From the Journals

Biologics for psoriasis may also reduce coronary plaque



Biologics used as treatment for psoriasis may also help reduce lipid-rich necrotic core (LRNC), a high-risk plaque associated with cardiovascular events, recent research from a prospective, observational study suggests.


Cardiac CT scans performed on patients with psoriasis 1 year after starting biologic therapy revealed a reduction in LRNC, compared with patients who were not receiving biologics, according to Harry Choi, MD, of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health and colleagues. The association with reduction in LRNC and biologic therapy remained significant when adjusted for type of biologic. “These findings demonstrate that LRNC may be modulated by the control of systemic inflammation,” the researchers wrote in their study, published Sept. 15 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Dr. Choi and colleagues evaluated 289 patients with psoriasis within the Psoriasis Atherosclerosis and Cardiometabolic Disease Initiative cohort. The patients had a mean age of 50 years and a mean body mass index of 29.4 kg/m2, as well as a mean Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) score of 6.0. At baseline, 29% of patients had hypertension, 41% had hyperlipidemia, their mean Framingham risk score was 1.9, and a three-quarters (212 of 289) had mild to moderate psoriasis.

Changes in LRNC were observed at 1 year, compared with baseline prior to and after receiving biologic therapy (124 patients) in comparison with patients who did not undergo biologic therapy (85 patients). Biologic therapies were grouped by type, which included anti–tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF), anti–interleukin (IL)–12/23, and anti–IL-17 biologics.

There were a significant associations between LRNC and Framingham risk score (standardized beta coefficient, 0.12; 95% confidence interval, 0.00-0.15; P = .045) and severity of psoriasis (beta, 0.13; 95% CI, 0.01-0.26; P = .029) at baseline.

Key findings

The researchers found a significant reduction in LRNC 1 year after patients began biologic therapy (median, 2.97 mm2; interquartile range, 1.99-4.66), compared with baseline (median, 3.12 mm2; IQR, 1.84-4.35) (P = .028), while patients who did not receive biologic therapy had nonsignificantly higher LRNC after 1 year (median, 3.12 mm2; IQR, 1.82-4.60), compared with baseline measurements (median, 3.34 mm2; IQR, 2.04–4.74) (P = .06).

The results remained significant after the researchers adjusted for psoriasis severity, Framingham risk score, BMI, use of statins (beta, −0.09; 95% CI, −0.01 to −0.18; P = .033). Significant reductions in LRNC also remained when analyzing patients receiving anti-TNF, anti–IL-12/23, and anti–IL-17 biologics independently, and there were no significant between-group differences in reduction of LRNC.

The potential of biologics for improving vascular health

Discussing the study results in a press release from the American Heart Association, senior author Nehal N. Mehta, MD, MSCE, FAHA, chief of the Lab of Inflammation and Cardiometabolic Diseases at the NHLBI at NIH, compared the effect biologic therapy had on coronary plaque reduction with that of statins.

“There is approximately 6%-8% reduction in coronary plaque following therapy with statins. Similarly, our treatment with biologic therapy reduced coronary plaque by the same amount after one year. These findings suggest that biologic therapy to treat psoriasis may be just as beneficial as statin therapy on heart arteries,” Dr. Mehta said in the release.

In an interview, Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of NYU Women’s Heart Program at NYU Langone Health, echoed Dr. Mehta’s commments and said psoriasis carries the “potential to treat two conditions with the same drug.”

“We know conditions such as psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis cause chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes injury to blood vessels and high-risk coronary plaque. Individuals with these inflammatory conditions are at high risk for heart attack,” she said. “This study shows that biologic treatment for psoriatic arthritis can reduce the presence of high-risk plaque. It shows the potential to treat chronic inflammation and high-risk coronary plaque.”

While the results show an association between use of biologics and LRNC reduction, the study design was observational and patients had a short follow-up period. Dr. Goldberg noted more studies are needed to evaluate the effect of biologics on reducing cardiovascular events such as a myocardial infarction.

“We have never before been able to show healing of an inflamed plaque like this in humans. Biologic therapy reduces systemic inflammation and immune activation, and it has a favorable impact on improving overall vascular health,” Dr. Mehta said in the press release. “Imagine if we can treat both psoriasis and coronary heart disease with one therapy – that is the question to be asked in future studies.”

This study was funded with support from the NHLBI Intramural Research Program and the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program at the National Institutes of Health. One investigator reports financial relationships with numerous pharmaceutical companies. The other authors report no relevant conflicts of interest. Dr. Mehta also reports numerous such relationships. Dr. Goldberg reports no relevant conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Choi H et al. Circ Cardiovasc Imaging. 2020 Sep;13(9):e011199.

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